USGS Digital Libraries for Coastal and Marine Science

USGS Digital Libraries for Coastal and Marine Science

Frances L. Lightsom (U.S. Geological Survey at USGS Woods Hole Science Center, USA) and Alan O. Allwardt (ETI Professionals at USGS Pacific Science Center, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-879-6.ch043
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Abstract

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has developed three related digital libraries providing access to topical and georeferenced information for coastal and marine science: the Marine Realms Information Bank (MRIB) and its two offshoots, the Monterey Bay Science Digital Library and Coastal Change Hazards Digital Library. These three members of the MRIB family run on the same software and share a common database, but they employ different user interfaces targeting different audiences. This chapter reviews (1) distributed geolibraries, the conceptual foundation for MRIB, (2) the modular software of MRIB, permitting the rapid development of customized user interfaces, and (3) the Electronic Index Card (EIC) Creation Utility, encouraging users to contribute new metadata records to the MRIB database. The accompanying discussion addresses several challenges facing digital library developers: providing for scalability in the system; ensuring interoperability with other systems; and meeting the demands of characterizing information while facilitating its search and retrieval.
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Introduction

The Coastal and Marine Geology Program (CMGP) of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has developed a family of distributed digital libraries providing access to topical and georeferenced information for coastal and marine science. This digital library system includes three user interfaces targeting different audiences:

  • 1.

    The Marine Realms Information Bank (MRIB; http://mrib.usgs.gov/), developed in 2001, is a general-purpose user interface providing access to free online scientific information about oceans, coasts, and coastal watersheds. MRIB encourages its users to discover these information resources by browsing a faceted classification with twelve main categories, including author, agency, discipline, feature type, named location, and “hot topics” (Figure 1). MRIB was also one of the first digital libraries to utilize interactive maps for searching and retrieving georeferenced information.

  • 2.

    The geographic search capabilities of MRIB were ideally suited for creating the Monterey Bay Science (MBS) Digital Library (http://mrib.usgs.gov/mbs/), a regional pilot project providing access to scientific information about the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and coastal watersheds of central California (Figure 2). The MBS user interface, released in 2004, serves as a model for any regionally focused digital library based on the MRIB software architecture.

  • 3.

    The newest addition to the CMGP digital library system is the Coastal Change Hazards (CCH) Digital Library (http://mrib.usgs.gov/cch/), released in 2006. The specialized CCH user interface (Figure 3) focuses on natural hazards and human impacts in the coastal zone and replaces the MRIB hot topics with a more specific topical classification. Crosswalks between the MRIB and CCH topical classifications ensure that online resources originally cataloged for one interface can be searched and retrieved using the other interface. The Coastal Change Hazards Digital Library serves as a model for any topically focused digital library based on the MRIB software architecture.

    Figure 1.

    The Marine Realms Information Bank (MRIB), featuring three search options: by category, location, and keyword. The “Submit a Document” link at the bottom of the page connects the user to the Electronic Index Card (EIC) Creation Utility

    Figure 2.

    The Monterey Bay Science (MBS) Digital Library, a regionally focused member of the Marine Realms Information Bank (MRIB) family. The customized MBS user interface provides access to about one-fourth of the MRIB database

    Figure 3.

    The Coastal Change Hazards (CCH) Digital Library, a topically focused member of the Marine Realms Information Bank (MRIB) family. The customized CCH user interface provides access to about one-third of the MRIB database

These three closely related digital libraries, which run on the same software and share a common database, constitute the MRIB family of digital libraries. In the discussion that follows, the term “MRIB” will be used in a generic sense for all three members of the family, whereas “Marine Realms Information Bank” will refer specifically to the parent interface.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Distributed Geolibrary: In the online environment, a distributed geolibrary allows patrons to search centralized metadata records for information about specific places and then retrieve the original online resources from servers distributed across the Internet.

Knowledge Organization System (KOS): Any formalized scheme for managing information resources, including authority files, subject headings, taxonomies, thesauri, semantic networks, and ontologies.

False Drop: An instance of retrieving information that is not relevant to a given search.

Faceted Classification: An indexing system that employs several mutually exclusive metadata fields to characterize information resources.

Gazetteer: In the traditional sense, a gazetteer is a dictionary of place names. Digital gazetteers, in contrast, link place names to specific bounding boxes or polygonal footprints for the purposes of map display or information retrieval.

Crosswalk: A semantic mapping between the elements of two metadata standards, facilitating interoperability.

Controlled vocabulary: A list of preferred terms for indexing information resources, ideally with precise definitions and guidelines for application.

Granularity: The level of descriptive detail in a metadata record, usually representing a balance between the competing demands of fully characterizing information resources and facilitating the process of search and retrieval.

Interoperability: The ability of different information systems to exchange resources through shared standards.

Georeferencing: The practice of indexing information resources by geospatial coordinates, place names, or geographic codes.

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